Dr. Bill Atwood

The tomb was empty

“Guard that Tomb. Make sure that nothing happens to the body.” Certainly the trusted guard was told that he had to protect the interests of the entire Roman government by making sure that the body wasn’t snatched by thieves. Rome knew that if the body was taken, the followers of the itinerant rabbi would surely claim that he had beaten death and had risen as he said he would. If that happened, Rome knew that Jesus of Nazareth would catapult from the status of a very popular prophet to being the Messiah.

Jesus had been preaching for about three years and had caught the attention of the leaders of the local temples, as well as the established governmental leadership back in Rome. He had been credited with the performance of many miracles and the people were becoming convinced that this man truly might just be the Messiah.

The miracles had been witnessed by too many to be able to deny they had occurred. The wedding guests at Cana had tasted the wine that came from water Jesus had instructed the slaves to bring up from the river. People had witnessed the Leper healed from that horrible affliction as well as watching the blind man regain his sight. Deaf mutes could hear and speak, Lazarus returned to his family after being dead and entombed. Fishing nets that had caught little during the day were now teeming with an abundance of fish, and Jesus also was known to have walked on water.

The baby born in Bethlehem 33 years earlier had been identified and honored by the Magi with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The scripture had foretold His coming and the scripture foretold His life. Jesus knew His ministry was coming to an end and the end would be horrific.

The betrayal would come in the form of a kiss by one of His own disciples. Judas would hang himself having pangs of guilt too great to bear. Peter would promise never to disavow Him and yet in the hours between their last supper together, and His crucifixion, Peter would denounce Him three times just as Jesus had told him he would. The other disciples sneaked away to hide from the search parties.

The mockery of a trial took place and the sentence handed down and ordered to be carried out that day. The flogging and the beatings along with the wearing of a crown of thorns jammed onto His head was just the beginning of the end.

Jesus carried His Cross to Calvary until the physical burden became too difficult. Simon of Cyrene was directed to carry the Cross the rest of the way. Up until that day, the Cross was a symbol of a slow and painful death. Crucifixion kills a person by using their own body weight to pull them down and tightening the skin so that the person can no longer draw a breath. You suffocate while you suffer from the wounds inflicted during the floggings.

Jesus died between two thieves. One who taunted Him to save Himself and the two of them. The other thief knew he was getting what he deserved but asked that Jesus remember him in his Kingdom. Jesus promised that thief that he would be joining Him in paradise that very night.

At three in the afternoon, Jesus breathed His last and the wrath of God became evident. The storm, the quakes, and the temples crumbling were noticed by everyone. The Centurion who stated, “This truly was the Son of God” had witnessed a complete conversion in a very short time.

Jesus was taken down from the Cross, cleaned up using the customs of His faith and placed into a borrowed tomb. The Tomb was sealed and the guard assigned.

On Sunday morning it was discovered that the rock had been rolled away and while the linens were neatly folded, the body was clearly gone. Jesus was seen by many during the next few weeks and He charged his disciples with the responsibility of spreading the news of the resurrection.

Rome hunted for the body with the largest manhunt in human history. We have Rome to thank for proving that Jesus rose from the grave. His Crucifixion was for us. He died to save us. Our sins were taken on by Him.

On Dec. 25, we celebrated Christmas. However, Easter is the most important day of the Christian year because without Easter there would be no reason to ever celebrate the birth of Jesus.

When Jesus told His disciples that He would prepare a place for them, He was asked for directions to getting there. “We don’t know the way.” Jesus told them, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life and no one gets to the Father except through me.”

Christians rejoice at Easter because the promise of our salvation can be summed up in a few simple words. The tomb was empty.

He is Risen.